Survey data from high school students is currently being sold

Hand completing a multiple choice exam.

An event with the name of Congress of Future Science and Technology Leaders brought together three thousand students who traveled all across the U.S. to attend. The event was supposed to be part of “a highly selective national program honoring academically superior high school students”, according to letters sent to the attendees.

However, those letters were probably dishonest to the students, since most of them were selected after having filled out a college-planning questionnaire in the past. Most people in the audience had taken a survey named MyCollegeOptions, and others had filled out one that came with their ACT or SAT tests. All questionnaires reportedly asked the students to fill out personal information, were sold and shared with the “scientific” event.

While the current climate of data privacy on the internet may indicate that this isn’t of much importance, this is one of the few cases where minors are being directly affected. According to MyCollegeOptions, it gave the information to student loan services, test prep, and other companies. The information could ultimately be used for educational and noneducational services.

This was all done legally since there is very little oversight on how these organizations handle the data they collect, as the federal law makes public schools responsible for controlling their students’ data.  However, ever since the Cambridge Analytica controversy took place, the public has grown increasingly outraged by the mishandling of personal data. The Department of Education has attempted to highlight the fact that the surveys where students gave their information were optional.

According to the director of education privacy at the Future of Privacy Forum, the Departments actions could end up in them “[advising] the College Board and the ACT to either eliminate the voluntary survey when it’s being given in a school or take out any questions that would be considered sensitive in a particular state.”

Over three million high school students of the Class of  2018 took surveys with the ACT, the SAT or the PSAT, all of which could end up being involved in mishandled marketing. Although the selection for the Congress was done based on students with a 3.5 or higher GPA, the event was highly mis-marketed and didn’t display all the information to the students.

A Fordham University professor, who was recently involved in a study of student data,  stated:

The harm is that these children are being profiled, stereotyped, and their data profiles are being traded commercially for all sorts of uses — including attempts to manipulate them and their families”

After more recent scandals, The College Board decided to change their approach to privacy policies. In an email to the New York Times, they stated that they will now “maintain a direct relationship with and oversight of all organizations using College Board-sourced student data.” The ACT has stated that they will stick with its previous approach to privacy.



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